<p>Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.)&nbsp;and Simza (Noomi Rapace) cut a rug in 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'</p>

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Simza (Noomi Rapace) cut a rug in 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Robert Downey Jr. benefits from Moriarty as bad guy in Ritchie's 'Sherlock' sequel

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Readers
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Jared Harris cuts a dashing figure as the Napoleon of Crime

One of my favorite books this year was a piece of fiction written by UK film critic Kim Newman, a collection of stories called "Moriarty - Hound Of The D'Urbervilles".  It is a series of tales narrated by Col. "Basher" Moran, second-in-command to the insidious Professor Moriarty.  The stories boast about successful wrongdoing and brag about various schemes gone right, and in all of them, Moriarty is presented as a barely-human monster with a bland face.  It is a wonderful way to revisit the world of Sherlock Holmes from a new perspective, and it is pretty much pure fun.

One thing that is clear when you look at the entire body of work that exists out there about Sherlock Holmes and the various characters he's collided with over the years is that he remains one of the most elastic, archetypical pulp characters ever created.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle probably didn't even fully understand the allure of the character, which is true most of the time when someone has that moment of pure inspiration.  In the stories he wrote, Doyle was careful to drop plenty of bread crumbs that other writers and readers have picked up over the years, clues to ways you could reinterpret or reimagine or even just reexamine the characters.  If you don't like one interpretation, there's always another just around the corner, and there's probably some version out there that will exactly scratch whatever itch you have concerning the ongoing adventures of the world's crankiest genius and his stalwart if unspectacular companion.

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<p>At the premiere of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows,' Guy Ritchie and his lovely girlfriend Jacqui Ainsley were evidently mugged by a poster of Robert Downey Jr.</p>

At the premiere of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows,' Guy Ritchie and his lovely girlfriend Jacqui Ainsley were evidently mugged by a poster of Robert Downey Jr.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Guy Ritchie goes from 'Sherlock' to 'UNCLE' for Warner Bros

Ritchie and his 'Holmes' producer Lionel Wigram kick off their new partnership

Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram make sense as a creative partnership.

When I spent time in London for the first "Sherlock Holmes," I had the opportunity to take a long walk with Wigram over to the cathedral they were using for the opening of the movie, and as we walked, we talked about Holmes, Doyle, London, its history, and more.  He was also one of the people who was involved deeply in the "Harry Potter" series, and so you could say he's trusted by Warner Bros in a very big way.

Although it's only been recently that "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." has been in the news in a regular way, Warner's been working to figure out a way to bring this one back to life for a long time now.  Back in '99, they were reaching out to George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and others, and they never really figured out how to do it.  It seems like Clooney must have been a fan of the original series just based on how many times he's circled back around to the property over the years.  I'm sorry his back is forcing him to curtail the more physical roles because I think he'd be pretty great in a big Bond-like spy movie.

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<p>Our first look at 'the man in the mask' came as part of an amazing sequence screened tonight at a special IMAX presentation for 'The Dark&nbsp;Knight Rises'</p>

Our first look at 'the man in the mask' came as part of an amazing sequence screened tonight at a special IMAX presentation for 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Credit: Warner Bros/Legendary

Bane rules as 'Dark Knight Rises' prologue unveiled in special IMAX presentation

Our introduction to 'the man in the mask' raises more questions than it answers

Bane seems like a bad, bad man.

That is, of course, the point of the prologue from "The Dark Knight Rises," which was screened tonight at Universal Citywalk's IMAX screen with Christopher Nolan in attendance to set it up for us.

When "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" opens on December 16 in a limited run for a week before it goes wider on the 21st, any of the screens that are playing the large-scale film format IMAX will also be playing this special "Dark Knight Rises" footage, which will not be released online.  Let me urge you to make sure you attend one of those screenings, and not just for the "Dark Knight" stuff.  I think I was fairly effusive the other day in my review of "M:I - GP," and part of what impressed me was the way Bird used the IMAX format in the scenes that were shot that way.  Now, seeing what Nolan's done with the IMAX cameras, I think the double-feature makes the best case yet for what a smart filmmaker can accomplish in terms of immersion without ever once using the term "3D."

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<p>'Stephen King? Never heard of him. All I know is PIRANHA&nbsp;3D is awesome.'</p>

'Stephen King? Never heard of him. All I know is PIRANHA 3D is awesome.'

Credit: AP Photo/Jim Cole

Joe Hill and Alexandre Aja team up for 'Horns'

'Piranha 3D' director will bring Hill's novel to bigscreen life

Joe Hill is a tremendous writer.

It's funny… I know why he chose to write as Joe Hill and not use his dad's last name, and I think he's more than proven that he has his own voice and his own talent and he doesn't need to play off of who he is to get published or build a fan base.  He deserves every reader he's got, and more.

Even so, i was with Devin Faraci this summer at Comic-Con, and as we were walking through downtown San Diego to get somewhere and pick up passes to something, we walked by Joe Hill at one point, and it was sort of stunning how much he looked like his dad in the late '70s or early '80s.  I'm not sure how anyone who was ever face to face with him would have had any question about his relationship to Stephen King, because it's downright spooky.

Recently, Fox TV flirted with an adaptation of his comic series "Locke & Key," and I'd love to get a look at the pilot episode that Mark Romanek directed.  That didn't get picked up, though, and the film version of "Heart-Shaped Box" hasn't been able to get off the ground, either.  His most recent novel was "Horns," a disturbing piece about a guy who wakes up one morning with actual devil horns starting to grow out of his head and no memory of how or why.  It is a visceral, emotional ride and a big step forward for him as a novelist, even though his first few books were also very strong.  Although there's quite a bit of the book that deals with the inner journey of the main character, I suspect it will translate well to film and could be a very smart mainstream horror movie for grown-ups.

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<p>It looks like Jonah Hill and the young cast of 'The Sitter' just sat through a screening of 'The Sitter'</p>

It looks like Jonah Hill and the young cast of 'The Sitter' just sat through a screening of 'The Sitter'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Jonah Hill's woefully unfunny 'The Sitter' deserves to be fired

HitFix
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Readers
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It's rare that this many people I like this much make something I like so little

While I would never claim that "The Sitter" was the worst film I saw in 2011, I think it is the film that most bitterly disappointed me this year.  I've written at length about the work of Jonah Hill, as well as director David Gordon Green, and I consider the production company Rough House to be one of the most interesting working in comedy today.  Perhaps because of the regard I have for their collective work, I am baffled by how completely I disliked "The Sitter," and I find myself unable to work up the spleen that normally goes into a really strongly negative review.  More than anything, I just feel deflated by the whole thing.

More than anything, I'm puzzled by the movie.  Keep in mind, I liked the last two comedies that David Gordon Green directed, "Your Highness" and "Pineapple Express."  I am willing to acknowledge that "Your Highness" is deranged, one of the strangest mainstream films I've ever seen, but I like that it has such a strong sense of itself and it's so willing to try anything.  If you're part of the 99.9% of all audiences who seemed to despise "Your Highness" completely, then I would advise you don't even attempt to see "The Sitter," because it doesn't even have the ragged, whacked out personality that made that film interesting.

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<p>Peter Berg, commanding his fleet</p>

Peter Berg, commanding his fleet

Credit: Universal

Edit bay visit: Peter Berg goes big with 'Battleship'

The director answers questions about his biggest movie to date

On a breezy afternoon in Santa Monica last June Universal pictures invited HitFix and handful of journalists to visit the edit bay of next summer's tent pole movie "Battleship" to see the films' progress and talk to director Peter Berg. 

Many of us remember the game 'Battleship' as two rattling plastic clamshell cases that you could carry around like little laptops and set up anywhere for instant naval battle. Some even remember an electronic talking version (lucky jerks), but the gameplay in both was basically the same: you tried to sink your opponents fleet of ships by blindly calling out coordinates on their grid, and hoping you hit one of their ships before they hit yours.
 
So how do you turn a guessing game that can essentially be played with two pencils and a couple sheets of graph paper into a major motion picture? Well you make it a battle between a fleet of Navy ships and a fleet of alien ships, of course. Due to convenient plotting, neither fleet can see the other on their radar. Do they shoot giant plastic pegs at each other? The short answer is "Yes."
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<p>Gary Oldman gives good 'little grey man' in the new film version of the famous John Le Carre novel 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'</p>

Gary Oldman gives good 'little grey man' in the new film version of the famous John Le Carre novel 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

Credit: Focus Features

Review: Gary Oldman stars in smart and subtle 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'

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Readers
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Director of 'Let The Right One In' makes a stunning English-language debut

If you're a fan of spy fiction, you're pretty much covered this Christmas no matter which flavor you like.  For people who like the big and improbable and outrageous, with action to spare, there's Brad Bird's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," and if you prefer the more thoughtful, quiet, real-world approach, prepare to bask in the glory of Tomas Alfredson's new film version of the John le Carre classic, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy."

I've been addicted to spy stories, both fiction and non-fiction, since I was very young, and one of the things I remember as a formative event for that interest of mine was the broadcast of the TV version of "Tinker Tailor" that starred Alec Guinness.  I tuned in because of Alec Guinness, who I already knew and adored from "Star Wars" and "Bridge Over The River Kwai," and at first, I was disappointed because I thought all spy movies were supposed to be just like James Bond films.  As the series progressed, though, I got drawn into this world of quiet power plays, a world where the most dangerous men weren't the ones who looked dangerous, but the ones you barely noticed.  I read the le Carre novel, and then read the rest of the books featuring the same character, George Smiley, and that led me to read non-fiction about the history of MI6, and then that led me to reading about the American intelligence community, and a lifelong obsession took hold.

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<p>Emily Blunt and Jason Segel co-star in the new romantic comedy 'The Five-Year Engagement'</p>

Emily Blunt and Jason Segel co-star in the new romantic comedy 'The Five-Year Engagement'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Watch: Jason Segel and Emily Blunt take it slow in charming '5 Year Engagement' trailer

The new film from the team behind 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' looks great

I've got some great coverage of "The Five-Year Engagement" coming for you in early 2012, and I am really looking forward to the film.  Now, thanks to what I feel is a strong first trailer, you can get a look at what I've been waiting to talk about for a while now.

Jason Segel's got to be feeling good these days about the reception to "The Muppets," which he co-wrote with Nicholas Stoller.  This, though, is much closer to "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," their first film together, and it's a film that was Stoller's passion project just as much as the Muppets represented a personal passion for Segel.  I spent a day in San Francisco watching them work, right at the end of the shoot, and you'll see a glimpse of the scene I was there for, the actual proposal that kicks off the movie.  I saw a ton of footage from the film as well, and even in rough form, there were some great moments I saw.

Here, though, we've finally got our first polished look at material from the film, and I think this trailer does a lovely job of selling both the underlying idea about a young couple who experience a string of delays that prevent them from actually having their wedding, and I think it sells the tone as well as some of the more outrageous humor that punctuates their journey.

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<p>Jon Favreau talks movie making and cow sex.</p>

Jon Favreau talks movie making and cow sex.

Watch: Jon Favreau on the making of 'Cowboys and Aliens'

The genre mash-up hits stores this week on DVD and Blu-ray

"Cowboys and Aliens comes out on disc this week, so I thought I'd dig out a previously unpublished video interview I did with director Jon Favreau.

The movie didn't do as well as he and the rest of the cast would have liked, but still, it was an interesting experiment in genre mixing, and an all out love letter to westerns on Favreau's part.

 

Although I wouldn't consider myself a rabid fan of all his movies, I have come to appreciate the man for the obvious passion and love for his craft. He shows an obvious interest in every part of the filmmaking process, and can get into the nitty gritty of all the little technicalities of a production. Sadly, this is a rare trait among the directors that I've met.

 

I really enjoyed talking to him over the course of the "Cowboys and Aliens" production, and I think you can tell from this interview. 

 

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<p>This may be one of the few moments in the entire film where Tom Cruise is not onscreen for 'Mission:&nbsp;Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' as Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner plan the IMF team's next move</p>

This may be one of the few moments in the entire film where Tom Cruise is not onscreen for 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' as Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner plan the IMF team's next move

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: Tom Cruise leads the best team yet in sensational 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'

HitFix
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Readers
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Brad Bird nails it in his live-action debut

The "Mission: Impossible" franchise is a strange one.

For one thing, I think people often misuse the word "franchise."  Just because they make a few sequels to a movie, that doesn't automatically qualify that thing as a franchise.  I think of that more as a description of a film property (or book property or game property… whatever sort of IP you want to substitute) that features a basic idea or premise that can be endlessly refigured to fit new casts, new creative teams, and new storytelling styles, with little real regard for continuity.  "Mission: Impossible," from the moment it first aired as a television show, has offered up a near-perfect franchise engine, a premise so simple, so feather-light, that you can do anything with it, and as long as you strike those same few notes, it's recognizably "Mission: Impossible."

Over the weekend, I rewatched the first three "Mission: Impossible" films on Blu-ray.  I've always been fond of the first one, and looking at it now, it's one of those early CGI-era movies that reaches for some groundbreaking stuff in how action is staged and shot that doesn't totally work on a technical level, but that deserves respect for pushing the envelope as much as it did.  More than that, though, it's a fun piece of pop culture subversion that was designed to acknowledge the old school, then annihilate the old school, then introduce Tom Cruise as the new school.  Brian De Palma made each set piece feel like he was having fun, and it was big and complex and sleek and absolutely proved that it would work on the big screen.

The second film is so bad that it feels like someone who was very angry at John Woo decided to make a MAD-magazine-style parody of John Woo films and then release it with his name attached as director.  Awful.

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